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The Man Older Than The Trees

The man older than the trees

Grandpa Manolis with food ready for his chickens

At ten years old, Grandpa Manolis was a shepherd boy standing barefoot on top of the gorge looking after his sheep. That was near the end of the 1930’s.

Since then, he’s done national service, seen the first car arrive in Zakros and watched as the world became more connected.

He’s seen over 90 years of change and watched history unfold in front of him. He’s lived through a world war and a global pandemic.

We like to say he’s older than the olive trees. And it’s true.

He saw the village grow wheat in abundance before there was an olive industry. He watched as the olives were pressed by donkeys turning the millstones.

In his youth, he planted many of the olive trees that would come to define Zakros.

At 15, he helped move the first mechanised olive press to the village after it arrived by boat in 1945. It had been made in England. He was one of a handful to carry the machine piece by piece on the 8km journey from Kato Zakros up to Zakros.

First mechanical press in Zakros

The first mechanical press in Zakros

He was a founding members of the village co-operative and witnessed the rise of chemical farming and knew life before it. One where organic wasn’t a certificate. Chickens roamed in the olives, cover crops were planted for food and manure came from the animals. He’s seen two brothers from the U.K come to the village, learn the olive craft and talk about the invisible microbes in the soil.

He’s had pigs, chickens, olive trees and grapevines. Grown the food to feed his family.

He’s seen the rise and fall of the Cretan Banana Industry. Taken his donkey down the old salt road during the salt ban. Climbed up the mountains to forage wild artichokes and hiked down the gorge to collect wild oregano.

He worked on the archaeological site at Kato Zakros, digging out the ruins of the Minoan Palace. The excavation is considered the most important for Minoan Archaeology since the Second World War.

He’s traded goods between villagers. Bartered. Paid with drachma, paid with euros. Nearly paid with drachma again. He’s never left Greece.

Chicken hut and picked potatoes

Left: A tour of the chicken huts

Right: 1 line of potatoes picked

He still walks to his chickens twice a day and waves as we drive pass. He’s in his garden and you can hear him digging up lines of potatoes in the winter. A line a day and a sack over the shoulder to take home.

The man older than the trees sitting

In his 90’s, he still comes to fields to harvest. Slowly sorting the olives as they’re picked.

Woah, he’s seen some change in his lifetime.

This month, his great granddaughter, turned one. Something pretty special to add to the list. The things he has seen. The man older than the trees.

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